Three cases of Legionnaires’ disease recently identified in the Altona North area are being investigated by the Department of Health to determine if they are linked to any cooling towers in the area.
Victoria’s deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Michael Ackland, said all three cases live or have spent time in the Altona North area. All had onset dates within a similar time frame during late April and early May.
All three required hospital treatment, but are now recovering. The two men and the woman who became ill are aged between 47 and 88.
“As part of the routine response to cases of Legionnaires’ disease, environmental samples have been taken from cooling towers in the area,” Dr Ackland said.
“The cooling towers are sampled then disinfected on as a precaution. They will continue to be monitored, but the test results from all the sampling is not expected for several days
“My message to people in the Altona North and surrounding areas who may be suffering flu-like symptoms is to visit their GP who will assess the need for testing for Legionnaires’ disease.
“The Department is continuing to investigate these cases and identify the possible source of their illness,” Dr Ackland said.
Legionnaires’ Disease causes flu-like symptoms such as headache, fever, chills, confusion, muscle aches and pains, followed by respiratory problems and pneumonia developing over three or four days. The onset can be up to 10 days after the initial contact with the bacteria.
High risk groups in the community are people aged over 50, heavy smokers, heavy drinkers, diabetics, people with chronic lung disease and those with impaired body defences.
Legionnaires ’ disease infection is acquired through breathing in very fine droplets of water which contain the bacteria, such as spray drifts which are vented off from cooling towers. Thorough decontamination and cleaning of infected towers should eliminate the risk.
The legionella bacteria occurs naturally in the environment, mainly in warm water and soil. It is normally in very low concentrations but can increase markedly, particularly in man-made aquatic environments with warm recirculating water, such as air conditioning cooling towers.
So far this year 15 people have contracted Legionnaires’ disease associated with cooling tower systems, down from 23 for the same period last year.
Reviewed 09 April 2014